Mr. Frankel examined the array of lulavim and esrogim. He bought a set for himself and one for his oldest son, who was learning in yeshiva. He had two other boys, one in high school and one, Levi, not yet bar mitzvah.
Mr. Frankel reflected back to the time he was a child, when many families had only one set. He tried to imagine what it was like centuries ago, when often the entire community would share one set.
Now, however, the shul was filled with sets of lulav and esrog. Almost every adult had his own, and many children, even those under bar mitzvah, had their own set.”
“Buy me a set!” requested Levi. “My friend, Elimelech, said that his father bought him a set this year!”
Mr. Frankel smiled at Levi. “I’m glad that you would like a set of your own,” he said. “However, we can’t afford a third set. Also, I’ll let you use mine, which is a much nicer set than I would buy for you.”
“But if I use your set,” said Shlomi, “I won’t be able to shake during Hallel or walk around for Hakafos!”
“Why not,” said Mr. Frankel. “I’ll shake and then let you shake, and you’ll walk around with me when we do Hakafos. When I was a child, we all shared one set.”
“But my rebbe taught me that on the first day of Sukkos you have to own the lulav and esrog,” said Levi. “If I borrow yours, how can I fulfill the mitzvah?”
“Rabbi Dayan also mentioned this halacha on Shabbos,” replied Mr. Frankel, “but I know that for centuries Jews did share sets of lulav and esrog. Would you like to come with me to Rabbi Dayan and ask him about his?”
“I’d love to!” exclaimed Levi. “When can we go?”
“I’m taking this esrog to him now to check it,” replied Mr. Frankel. “So we can also ask him your question.”
The two went to Rabbi Dayan’s office. Mr. Frankel showed him the esrog, which was declared mehudar. “Levi raised a question about what you said on Shabbos,” Mr. Frankel added. “Can I give my lulav and esrog to someone to use on the first day of Yom Tov?”
Rabbi Dayan answered: “You can give your lulav and esrog to another adult as a gift on condition that he returns it, but should not grant it to a child below bar mitzvah unless all the adults have already fulfilled the mitzvah on the first day of Sukkos. Outside of Israel this applies to the second day of Yom Tov as well.”
Rabbi Dayan then explained: “Since the Torah states ulekachtem lachem bayom harishon – you should take for yourselves – a person must own the four species on the first day in order to fulfill the mitzvah..”
“Then how can people share their lulav and esrog?” asked Mr. Frankel
“When we ‘lend’ someone our lulav on the first day or days, we actually give it to him as a gift; when he returns it, we reacquire it from him,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “To protect our ownership, we typically give the lulav as a ‘matana al m’nas lehachzir’ – a gift on condition the person returns it afterward. In former generations when the whole community would use one set, each person would take full possession while using it, and then the next person would take full possession.” (C.M. 241:6; O.C. 658:3-5,9)
“So why can’t I give my lulav to Levi, and then acquire it back?” asked Mr. Frankel.
“This is problematic with children who are not yet bar mitzvah,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “According to many authorities, minor children have the Torah ability to receive a gift when granted by others. However, they do not have the Torah ability to confer legal ownership in return, only rabbinic, depending on their age and maturity. [C.M. 235:1,2] For this reason, the Gemara (Sukkah 46b) says not to give the lulav to a child on the first day or days of Sukkos if the adults have not yet fulfilled the mitzvah.” (See O.C 658:6; B.H. s.v. lo)
“What about my wife and older daughters?” asked Mr. Frankel.
“They are the same as other adults,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Although women are not obligated in the mitzvah of lulav, if they want to fulfill the mitzvah and make a berachah – as many do – they must have ownership on the first day[s].”
“So what do I do about Levi?” asked Mr. Frankel.
“You can either buy Levi his own set, even a simple one, which should not be used by adults on the first [two] day[s],” said Rabbi Dayan. “Or you can let Levi use yours without actually granting him ownership. The Shulchan Aruch indicates that this suffices for the mitzvah of chinuch, of training.” (O.C. 657:1; M.B. 658:28)